Temple Isaiah, Chicago, designed by Adler, c. 1910
July 3, 1844|
Stadtlengsfeld, Thuringia, Germany
April 16, 1900 (aged 55)|
Dankmar Adler (July 3, 1844 - April 16, 1900) was a German-born American architect and civil engineer. He is best known for his ten-year partnership with Louis Sullivan, during which they designed influential skyscrapers that boldly addressed their steel skeleton through their exterior design: the Guaranty Building in Buffalo, New York; the Chicago Stock Exchange Building (1894-1972); and the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, Missouri.
Adler was born in Stadtlengsfeld, Germany; his mother died when he was born. In 1854, he came to the United States with his father Liebman, a rabbi. They took up residence in Detroit, and Liebman became the rabbi of Congregation Beth-El (whose Detroit temples had been constructed by congregation member Albert Kahn; their current temple was designed by Minoru Yamasaki). Subsequently, they moved to Chicago. Adler had some elementary-level education in the City of Detroit and Ann Arbor, before leaving school to become a draftsman.
Adler served in the Union Army during the Civil War with the Battery M of the 1st Illinois Artillery. He did engineering work in the Chattanooga and Atlanta Campaigns.
After the war, he worked as an architect in Chicago, working first with Augustus Bauer and next with Ozias S. Kinney. In 1871, Adler formed a partnership with Edward Burling that ultimately created more than 100 buildings.
Adler's partnership with Sullivan was short-lived; due to a slump in their architectural practice brought on by the Panic of 1893, and Adler's desire to bring his two sons into the firm, there arose a rift with Sullivan, the result of which was that Adler left the partnership to join an elevator firm as engineer and salesman. After a short period, Adler returned to architecture, in partnership with his two sons, but never regaining the prominence he had with Sullivan.
Adler and Sullivan's Auditorium Building (1889) is an early example of splendid acoustical engineering, as is their Kehilath Anshe Ma'ariv Synagogue. Both drew upon the fine acoustics in Adler's earlier Central Music Hall. Adler was an acclaimed expert in acoustics, yet he was unable to explain fully the excellent acoustic properties of his buildings.
With his partner Burling and thereafter, as a partner in Adler and Sullivan, Adler was instrumental in rebuilding much of Chicago following the Great Chicago Fire. Adler is considered a leader in the Chicago school of architecture. In addition to their pioneering accomplishments with steel-framed buildings and skyscrapers, Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan were early employers and mentors of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose consistent praise for Adler ("the 'American Engineer' my 'Big Chief'") surpassed even that which he reserved for Sullivan, whom he called his "lieber meister".
The last major building Adler designed was Temple Isaiah.
On June 25, 1872, Adler married Dila Kohn (July 5, 1850 - December 3, 1918). Their children include: Abraham K. Adler (September 13, 1873 - October 30, 1914), Sidney Adler (June 26, 1876 - November 25, 1925) and Sadie Adler (born 1878).
Photographs and other archival materials are held by the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Dankmar Adler Collection of letters, papers, and photographs also includes an autobiography.
The first group of buildings were created in partnership with Edward Burling: